In partnership with Equisafety…

Horses aren’t just for riding. Walking your horse in-hand can be fun and rewarding — for both of you. It will also improve your bond, helping you develop a better and closer relationship, as well as boosting your confidence in each other.

There’s a safety element too: if you find yourself in a tricky position while hacking and need to dismount, knowing that your horse has confidence in you as his leader and will follow you through or past the obstacle, it will help to keep you safe.

In-hand work has so many benefits for your horse and you can accomplish a great deal by simply walking alongside him. It’s also an excellent way to work with young horses, retirees and those who are recovering from an injury.

A unique bonding experience

Going on a walk with your horse is a wonderful way to build trust and strengthen your bond. Spending time on the ground side by side means that you get to see the world from his point of view.

When you’re in the saddle, it can be easy to forget how your horse sees things, so you can cultivate a new level of understanding with him.

Think about how horses interact with one another in the wild, walking long distances with their herd. Walking with your horse isn’t the same as leading him to the field or back to his stable.

It’s not a task or a chore — it’s all about spending time with him, learning about him and bonding with him.

Watch how your horse moves as he’s next to you — what he looks at, how his legs and hooves navigate different terrain.

Building confidence

By being a support for your horse from the ground, he can learn to navigate difficult situations without the added stress of the weight of a rider.

If you’re more of a nervous rider this is a great exercise for you as well, since your anxiety when you ride will feed into your horse. From the ground you can face new situations together, and you can encourage him on without being fearful that you might fall off.

Practise desensitising him to objects or areas that would normally faze him on a hack — that bridge he refuses to go under, the track where he did a massive spook. Going there in-hand is a completely new experience, and you’ll be able to move past such barriers.

Not only that, but by developing this trust with each other you’ll be setting yourself up to feel much more confident when you next climb into the saddle.

Developing strength

Walking is great exercise for your horse. It develops his muscles without putting too much strain on them, therefore allowing him to become more supple.

Hill work in particular is a great strengthening exercise and it will teach him to be more balanced. It’s a fab workout for you too!

While riding is a fantastic form of exercise, nothing compares to moving on your own two feet. It can be a lot of fun to have your horse as a walking, or even a jogging partner.

Improving manners

Plenty of riders want their horses to have better manners on the ground, but few people actually work on them.

In-hand walking is fantastic for this. Encourage your horse to move with you, rather than pulling or barging against you.

Working with treats can be a great incentive, but use positive reinforcement too, such as patting and a calm, reassuring tone of voice.

Your horse should stop when you stop and go when you go, keeping in line with your shoulder.

Walking politely in-hand for extended periods of time is a great skill for any horse to have. Even if your horse is a dream on the ground, there’s no such thing as too much practice.

Happy hormones

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, spending time with horses makes us happier. Exercise of any form increases blood flow, creates new neural pathways and releases endorphins and other ‘happy’ hormones, improving your mindset, positivity and self-esteem.

When you’re feeling anxious, spending some time outdoors with your horse is the best medicine and immediately makes you feel calmer.

Sometimes we all need a moment to just get away from it all, so grab a headcollar and hit the bridleway for some quality time with your best friend.

Safety first

Always ensure that you wear the right kit when leading your horse. Wear gloves and a riding hat and, make sure you both have some high vis on too.

This content is brought to you in partnership with Equisafety, high viz clothing for horses and riders.

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